In NFL, Fitness Protects the Heart

In NFL, Fitness Protects the Heart

Reported May 27, 2009

(Ivanhoe Newswire) – Despite their massive size, National Football League players have similar cardiovascular disease risk factors compared to other young men in the general population, according to a new study.

In recent years, NFL players have gotten much bigger and sporadic deaths of active and young retired players have raised questions about an associated increase in cardiovascular disease risk factors.

For the study, researchers at Union Memorial Hospital in Baltimore collected health data, including height, weight, body composition, total cholesterol and blood pressure, from 504 active, veteran football players from 12 NFL teams. That information was compared to data gathered from nearly 2,000 men between the ages of 23 and 35 who participated in the Coronary Artery Risk Development in Young Adults (CARDIA) study.



The NFL players were taller and heavier than the CARDIA men, but despite their size, the professional players had lower average fasting glucose levels and a significantly lower prevalence of impaired fasting glucose. There were no significant differences between the two groups in the prevalence of high total cholesterol, high LDL-C, low HDL-C or high triglycerides.

However, the NFL players did have a significantly higher prevalence of high blood pressure and prehypertension. The researchers said this discovery has led the NFL to order a league-wide survey and in-depth investigation to help its players lower their risk of developing hypertension.

But overall, the players’ superior physical activity is probably an important factor in lessening the effect of large size on some of the measured cardiovascular disease risk factors, researchers said.

SOURCE: Journal of the American Medical Association, May 27, 2009;301:2111-2119